Your child has turned 12 or 13 and you wonder what happened to that sweet innocent bundle of energy who is teen now. You notice snapping or talking back, slamming doors, emotional outbursts of different types, tantrums and more.
Teenage is usually a highly sensitive and emotional time for your child and a tough period for you as a parent too (esp. during age 12- 15 yrs).
Your child is trying to find her/his individuality and working hard to fit in this world full of pressure, high exposure, and expectations. Modern teens are ten times more stressed than our teenage times.
They need more emotional and moral support from you than they think they need.This time will test your unconditional acceptance, kindness, patience, and maturity. Test whether you are able to accept and empathize with your child without interfering their freedom, growth, and individuality.
The more you connect with your teen, the happier they are, behave in a better way and do better in life too.
If you’re wondering whether you already connect deeply with your teen or not; notice these-
- Whether your teen is comfortable sharing his / her innermost feelings and opinions with you or not?
- Whether they are happy to spend some time with you or not?
- Whether they come to you for advice and suggestions or not?
- Is the time you two spend together is full of fun, laughter or nice chats mostly?
- Is there a power struggle and conflict between you two most of the times?
- Is your teen addicted to social media or screen?
- Does your teen show aggression and anger very frequently?
Your answers to the questions above will help you realize how connected you are with your child. And here are few simple ways to build a deeper connection:
Keep the communication channel open: Start deep conversations as a friend
A teen isn’t going to just come up to you to talk about their friendships, girlfriend/boyfriend, sex or alcohol. It might not be comfortable or easy for them share all this with you.However, you can leave the communication channel open by telling them your own teen stories, or offering that communication if they ever want to talk about any such things.
Make sure you respond very calmly and maturely when they share something. Do not overreact or judge the situation negatively, that will close the door of future communication.Appreciate and acknowledge the fact that they shared with you.
Acknowledge their feelings: Validate their emotions (not their behavior)
No matter how trivial your teen’s feelings might seem to you, they are important. Always acknowledge their feelings.If they are frustrated with a subject (suppose Maths), rather than saying if you practice enough, work hard, you’ll get better. Accept their feelings and be empathic – say I know how frustrating it can be to study something you don’t like. Maths sucks!
This will immediately connect you with your child. They’ll feel so relieved that mom gets it. The best part is as they feel relaxed, they perform even better in Maths.
Never deny their feelings by saying things like – why are you getting so upset, what’s the big deal? This will immediately create a distance in your relationship.
Rather say, you seem really upset about it, do you wanna share with me your thoughts and feelings. Then Truly listen. Do not judge or assume anything. Just listen with an intention to understand.
Accepting their emotions doesn’t mean you accept their behavior. That only means you accept them as a person.
Once you connect with them, you can gently ask them; I see you are angry, do you think you can express your anger in a different way? When you use rude words, that hurt my feelings.
Do not give opinions like – Is this the way you treat your parents? This shaming makes them feel bad and doesn’t help them do any better.
Give them time and space to think and process what you said. Do not expect an immediate reply or change in behavior.
Show them you’re always there for them: Don’t just tell, show!
Telling your child how much they mean to you and you’re always there for them is good. But what’s even better is – To be there for them whenever they need you.
If your child has a performance or match; prioritize that over your meeting/schedule. Show your support. Feel enthusiastic about their life and cheer up for them.Usually, we do this when they are younger, but we must do this for our teens too, they’re still a little child at heart.
Go for a celebration afterward whether they win or lose. Show them life is about showing up and celebrating together, not just winning or losing.
Have genuine expectations: Notice if they feel pressurized by your expectations
If teens feel they’re not fulfilling your expectations or doing something wrong, they’ll hide or shy away rather than sharing their feelings with you. They’ll feel guilty and shame too, which undermines their confidence and self-esteem.Understand your child’s unique strengths and weak points and encourage them accordingly.
Loving them unconditionally is the best way to build a close relationship with them.
Do not make them fear you: Build trust in your relationship
Children lie or hide things from parents just because they fear their parents or fear the consequences parents can give.Tell them I trust you will do the right thing. I know you are smart enough to judge the situation and make the right decision. Observe them and offer support if they need.
Rather than threatening them to take away their privileges or grounding them; build enough trust and connection that they become self-responsible and self-disciplined.
Enter into your teen’s world: take interest in their friends and hobbies
Build a connection with your teen’s friends. Get to know them by inviting them to your home. Be kind and friendly.
Do not judge or criticise small things. If you have a serious concern like a friend being involved with smoking or drugs, talk to your child gently about your concern and find a solution together.
Take a genuine interest and build curiosity in your teen’s interests, even if you don’t like those things. Watch movies of their choice, listen to their favorite music.
“When you are clear that your relationship with your child is all that matters, then whether it’s Rock or Raga does not matter anymore.”
Show affection: in every possible way
Just because they’ve grown taller than you, don’t stop hugging and kissing them and call them sweet names as you did when they were babies.
Even if some teens resist physical affection by parents; they secretly enjoy it most of the times and physical caring touch is really good for their mental & emotional health too.
If they tell you not to hug in front of others, respect that. But do show affection when alone in ways they like whether it’s a pat on the shoulder or a head massage.
Be a Role Model for them: Set a good live example
Last but not the least, “be the person you want your teen to be.”If you want your teen to restrict their phone usage, first you delete all social media from your phone. Stop using your phone completely when you are with them or around them. That’s the only way you can influence them positively.
If you want your teen to talk to you respectfully, first you practice being calm and polite even in stressful situations. If you are not patient enough and lose your cool often, take help of a life coach to learn how to manage your emotions first.When you stop losing your cool, that will inspire them naturally rather than you telling them not to be angry.
Building an amazing relationship with your teen starts with communication and connection. These tips are a perfect place to begin.
This has also been published in http://www.salonisingh.com/